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Experts warn of serious risks to oral health from tongue piercings

Patients with tongue and lip piercings are being reminded of the damage that can be done to their oral health.

The warnings come after a recent study found that more than half of tongue piercings and 20% of lip piercings result in complications.

Experts also point to complications with procedures such as tongue splitting, including infection, problems with breathing and swallowing and nerve damage.

‘Although skin can be cleaned with antiseptic before piercings, the mouth cannot be cleaned in the same way,’ Patrick Magennis, chair of the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (BAOMS), told The Guardian.

‘There is always a mix of germs, good and bad, and breaching the protective lining can let in a life-threatening bug.

‘It is unlikely that this advice will stop those who wish to pierce or modify their mouth or tongue, but people having this done to them must understand the risk and attend an oral and maxillofacial surgery department urgently if an infection begins to develop or if bleeding results.

‘Their life could depend on it.’

Tongue splitting

The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) is calling for the law on oral modifications, such as tongue splitting, to be clarified.

In March, the Court of Appeal found tongue splitting to be illegal when performed by a body modification practitioner for cosmetic purposes, even in instances where consent has been obtained.

‘We would strongly advise people not to have oral piercings or tongue splits,’ Selina Master, from the FDS, said.

‘However, if they do, it is crucial they see their dentist on a regular basis so that the impact on their oral health can be closely monitored.

‘Never try to carry out one of these procedures on yourself, or others.’

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